Christmas means gift rapping, Chrismas means chorus songs, and Christmas means EATING.
This year, I had not only once but three different Christmas dinners in Tokyo. Which means, three diets at least to write on the the To-Do-List for 2010, but let's not talk about boring things.
Family first :
MY CHRISTMAS SURPRISE DINNER WITH SISTER
It began with this : the huge Xmas package, full of good French specialities, sent by our darling parents... Chocolates, tapenade, foie-gras, marrons glaces, caramels, calissons...
Look at these chocolates. Isn't it a piece of art ? French cooks, we love you !
And then, for the little "local" touch : we went to the izakaya at Ebisu, and had delicious fried spring rolls and roasted tuna with cheese ! Merry Christmas !
Then, friends :
Most of the ETPs went back to their countries to celebrate Christmas with their families, but a few of us were still there and ready to have a toast ! Thank you again to Attila and Melinda for hosting the party, and to Nataly for her fine organization of the Christmas lottery !
Our hosts cooked meat pancakes and we had the most delicious "buche" covered with nuts and almonds.
Let's jump to the boyfriend time :
MY CHRISMAS ROMANTIC RENDEZ-VOUS
At restaurant Temari (Shinjuku), you can sit into nice balls which are supposed to represent the toys the little Japanese girls play with, but from my French point of view it looks like Christmas tree balls... No ?
We had absolutely delicious sushi-balls, meat balls, deep-fried chicken, and other delicious and funny meals.
Boyfriend has a family too. On the 26th, I had the honor to join :
MY CHRISMAS FAMILY MEETING
Hitoshi's cousin is a volunteer for the association Support 21, which helps the refugees' kids to get a good education and the best chances to succeed in the Japanese society. I had the chance to join this meeting where some of these former kids, now high-level students, were presenting their researches and sharing their experiences (in Japanese of course). There were Chinese, Viet-namese, Peruvian, Brazilian students and also a very interesting young woman, born from an English man and a Korean woman, raised in Japan and totally Japanese - she had to struggle a lot to learn another language than Japanese - who made a speech about identity and the difficulty to exist as a human when you don't belong to the classic categories. An during all this time, we had sweets and drinks, whithout speaking of this amazing Christmas chorus where another cousin of Hitoshi was singing (the first on the left).
And after that... the first cousin invited us to have a Chrismas nabe (a kind of light fondue, soy-sauce-based, with boiled meat, vegetables and udon in this case). I had the chance to visit her huge appartment with a great view on Tokyo Tower, and to meet her Canadian husband. And she cooked chocolate truffes too !
And they have a real Chrismas tree, with the authentic smell ! That is the smell of Christmas !
Thank you everyone for this wonderful Christmas. It was delicious, colourful, tasty and funny ! Your smiles made it even more beautiful !
It's almost Christmas and it's time for regression. So it's time to go and visit the Japanese version of the Disneyland Resort. We went to Disney Sea because it seemed to propose a few new things compared to our Disneyland Paris. The two parks (Land and Sea) are situated in the Easter surburb of Tokyo. You can acces the place easily with the JR line connected to Tokyo station or Shin-Kiba station, on the Yurakucho line. It's a simple, easy, fast and cheap journey - first good surprise of the day.
I went several times to Disneyland Paris and I have to say that I definitely prefered Disney Sea Tokyo. Let me list the nicest points of Tokyo's park :
- It's quiet. The kids are patients, calms and nobody rushes to the attractions. No stress in the waiting lines. When you lost your friends because you were busy to take a picture, people kindly make some space in the line to let you join your group. As a result, the day was very relaxing - something that you can't expect from Disneyland Paris where kids are shouting at every corner and their parents insulting them in all the langages of the world...
- It's clean. Another difference from Disney Paris. Almost everyone is carrying a pop-corn bag but nothing falls on the flor and if it happens, a nice cleaning person immediatly appears to clean the place. So Disney Sea really looks like another planet where everything is pretty and easy-going.
- It's details-oriented. Inside the attractions, the level of attention to the details of the decoration and so on is really, really amazing. Nothing compared to the cheap Pinocchio/Peter Pan/etc. attrations I was used to. The journey to the Center of the Earth is properly a piece of Art, as well as the 20 000 Under the Sea and even Indiana Jones - the special effects are really high-standard and you don't regret the time that you spent waiting for it ! And I understand now why the Japanese are so crazy about Disney stuff - the park as a whole is really, really impressive. There are little rooms everywhere, full of stuff and decoration ; the music on the alleys is well-balanced with noises effects etc... How can you resist to the magic ?
Special mention to the Kingdom of Triton, it was so beautiful that I could have spent the hole day to watch the scenary... And there was the real Mermaid's cavern !!!
- It's not so full of tourists. We barely met something like ten gaijin groups or couples. All the staff workin at Disney Sea is bilingual but people seemed sincerely surprised and happy that I could question them politely in Japanese and two of them thanked me for my "kirei na nihongo". As a result, you don't have the feeling that the park is a "tourists thing"but a kind of part of the modern Japanese culture.
- The restaurants are not only fast-food spots, even the middle-range ones. You can have spicy food inside he Volcano, arabian pastries at the Arabian Coast and pasta at Little Venice. I didn't tried any restaurant but families have more choice to feed the kids than in Paris.
- The goodies are not so expensive. I didn't buy anything because there was no reason to but if you like to bring some stuff back to your friends, I suppose that you feel relieved about the range of prices.
- You can see Fuji-san from the water-front ! It's the fist time that I could see it so clearly !
A few strange things, anyway :
- In the Little Mermaid's show, after meeting the Witch, the mermaid finally decides to stay in the Ocean with her fishes-friends. Ok, they had to find a way to close the show, but personnally, I was shocked. The mermaid, in Disney's version, is curious about the world and wants to get out the protected familial area to make her own experiences. It's a metaphore of the way you become and adult, and make a step into a foreign world that you don't controle - the way you accept to take risks... It's really Japanese to prefer an ending where the mermaid stays with the people who look like her and rejects the dangers of the "outside world". Welcome to the Japanese society.
- You can GET MARRIED at Disneyland Tokyo... Oh my.
- For the strong sensations inside the attractions, prefer Disneyland Paris. I am not in this case but if you like adrenaline, you would be desappointed by the softness of the Japanese "fast-pace" experiences.
But I liked a lot the Tower of Terror... You are in a elevator suddenly falling from the highest floor. I really felt myself falling from high.
Tower of Terror
A really good day at Disney Sea !
Will I go to Hell if I eat strawberries in December ?
If the answer is yes, at least I am sure not to feel lonely and to have a lot of Japanese friends to play around with, because strawberry is the fruit of the month in this country.
Everything started at work. I helped my colleague Yasuko-san to do a reporting about the new products you can find this month at the combini stores. I was amazed by the number of strawberry-perfumed stuff that suddenly appeared in the shops. One of them was “a strawberry-flavor crepe with strawberry cream and strawberry sirup, and true pieces of strawberry”. I asked Yasuko about this raise of passion for the strawberry (a national campaign to develop the production area ?...) but my colleague just answered : “Well… because it’s Chrismas !”.
Oh. Of course. Still I do not remember that Gaspar, Melchior or Balthazar ever offered strawberries to the little Christ but anyway. Actually it sounds more like the first opus of Asterix to me, even if I doubt that the Japanese know about it…
Strawberries are red, small, sweet and cute, so they are “Chrismas-spirit”. And the Japanese cultivate them inside greenhouses to be able to provide it in December, which is not logic at all for a European like me who associate the idea of strawberry with May, spring, sun and flowers.
So let’s get back to the point : eating
strawberries in December. At least these ones are from the very close prefecture of Shizuoka
For my friends who would plan to have a
quiet, relaxing time at the hot springs
According to a survey launched by JTB Corp (The Nikkei - Thursday, November 12, 2009), only 15% of the Japanese say that they plan to have a look at the Christmas lights. It’s a pity especially if you live in Tokyo, even if I heard that Kobe’s winter illuminations are the most impressive. In order to boost the figures, 100% of myself went to Ebisu and enjoyed the light show.
It started with sparkling trees covered with lights – I just wonder how the Japanese manage to take everything off without breaking the branches… mystery.
Then I met a giant classic Christmas tree…
A Baccarat stalactite…
And a magic garden.
Still according to the Nikkei, 23% of the Japanese plan to stay at home for Christmas and relax ; 20% will move somewhere like
or so ; 12% will do a party at home and 11%... will answer the phone at the office…Not me. Merry Christmas.
... I quote my mother in the title, she will confirm this state of mind of her...
Chrismas - Noël in French - is important.
I have so deep memories of hapiness linked to this period of the year that I still feel strange to spend it far from Home, even if it's the second time... Noemi phones Home, like ET.
So I couldn't resist and I brought Chrismas inside my little place... I have a Xmas tree adapted to the size of the room (means, small), and I made Greeting Cards for the occasion (talking of that, thanks again to Davide for the painting stuff).
As Noel is written in our DNA now, I am pretty sure that Mogusa will soon publish her own Chrismas posts...
Two weeks to wait before whishing you a Merry Chrismas !
I was quietly coming back from the automatic laudry with my freshly washed clothes when I met a Japanese woman pushing the wheel-chair of an old half-sleeping grandmother. The old woman suddenly woke up, pointed me and strongly shouted with hatred "Oni-san !", which means "Devil !" in Japanese. The lady behind her glanced at me and became embarrased double when she saw that I was perfectly aware of the meaning of this word. With my blond hair, I embody the image that an old Japanese woman can have of the "red devils", the foreigners who arrived in Japan from the Netherlands in the old times : tall, red-face people with blond hair and dangerous fire guns.
You even find the red devils in the most famous Japanese tale, Momotaro. Momotaro decides to help the people from a village which is regularly visited by a red devil who steals food and scares the inhabitants. Momotaro catches the red devil and asks him why does he do what he does. But the red devil starts crying, answering that he has no choice : he's from the far country of the Netherlands and would like to get back home but he doesn't have his boat anymore and the people here call him devil so he has to steal his food to survive. It should have learnt to the Japanese people to look twice before calling someone devil but it didn't seem to work for the grand-mother I met on the street. Well, of course after that Momotaro finds the true nasty red devils and beat them so they have to leave with their boats ; maybe she remembers only this part...
It is the first time I face direct racism from a Japanese and it's a strange sensation, despite the comic of the insult and the fact that it was coming from a sick old woman. Usually the Japanese tend to compare me to Marie-Antoinette, not a devil... From an extreme to another !
Last Sunday, I was a bit desperate considering that I was going to spend this perfectly sunny day inside an exam room, alone with Mister Japanese Language Aptitude Test, Level 2. No need to say that in addition to the fact that it's an exam, the Japanese Language Aptitude Test is a tricky, nasty, unlovable multiple choice test. Instead of evaluating your real abilitity to talk and write in Japanese, it tests your sense of time management and your capacity to avoid traps. For example, there is a kanji you know. You could even write it without any problem in a sentence. But in the JLPT, you are proposed 4 kanji with one or two different strokes only; and because your are a human being, the simple fact to read it make you loose your knowledge of the kanji. As a result, to be ready for the JLPT, you should know everything scientifically. Knowing a kanji would need : knowing every part of it and the ways they complete each other in the right order to make the right shape and to make the right meaning. And it is the case for every part of this exam. A nightmare for me who have never been able to memorize anything by heart but poetry. Even in French, I don't know one single grammatical rule ; just reading and letting my instinct think for me, I have always had a good orthographe. To make it simple, I would have prefered to write an essay and to have an interview with a human person in front of me to judge of my concrete skills. But anyway.
The good surprise of the day was the place. I had to commute until Hanakoganei station, on the Seibu Shinjuku Line ; 20 minutes from Takadanobaba with the Express train. The University of Kaetsu is a nice campus surrounded by trees, and above all, silent. Even if I leave in a very quiet area in Tokyo, the silence does not have the same quality there. It was amazingly peaceful. The premices themselves were great, modern and visually interesting. I could'nt prevent myself to shoot it during the break : welcome to the Kaetsu University...
For change it's not Japanese.
A little thought for Home... and for Love too.
... "Leave me alone" on a Japanese chest. Authentic.